Pride goes before a fall. You know that, right? Ducky. But did you re-learn it by getting punched in the face with a gun? No? Then you’re in for a treat.
Here’s the situation from a few years back…
The Setting: In-laws backyard.
The Temperature: 95 degrees with 179% humidity. Just the typical “Go Home, Mother Nature, You’re Drunk” Indiana summer.
My father-in-law Terry is what’s known as a Hunter’s Education Instructor. He is the guy that teaches people how to operate all manner of dangerous objects – rifles, bow and arrow, a ’79 Pinto – for the sole purpose of separating wildlife from, you know, life.
I’m what’s known as a Hater of Outdoors. Despite (or perhaps because of) growing up on a farm and raising sheep, cattle, horses, and a schizophrenic goat for the better part of my teen years, nature and I are not on good speaking terms. I have a primal, scream-like-a-Bieber-fan-on-Red-Bull phobia of bugs, no tolerance for sustained air temperatures over 75 degrees, and will turn the color of Maine lobster when exposed to direct sunlight. As a result, I had no interest in hunting and shot a gun only about 5 times between puberty and the incident that follows.
Team Janning is relaxing at the in-laws house when Terry decides he wants to “sight in” his .30/06 rifle. “Sight in” is fancy firearm speak for “make sure supersonic projectile goes where you aim it.” This involves a series of shots at a target anywhere from 25-100 yards from the gun in question, making adjustments to said gun and scope as necessary. If the bullet lands where you want, then bully for you, old sport! If you’re really bad at it, however, it’s Class C Felony for Reckless Endangerment with a Firearm for you, Annie Oakley.
For reasons that will baffle historians for generations, I decided this would be a good time to join Terry outside in the blast furnace of summer and shoot the gun. Never mind that the last gun I used was strapped to Area 51 at Chuck E. Cheese. My exact words to him were, “Wait up Terry! I’ll squeeze off a few with you.”
PRO TIP: no good idea contains the phrase “squeeze off a few.”
So happy was Terry for the opportunity to bond with his outdoors-averse son-in-law that he practically Gangnam Style-d his way down to his backyard shooting range.
I faux-swagger in his wake, trying to project an air of It’s Just Another Day Of Andy Slinging Around All The Thundersticks. In truth, I’m terrified. The possibility of gunpowder-laced permanent injury lurks just ahead but showing that fear in front of Super Hunter is more than my silly ego can bear.
So what should I do? Overcompensate, of course! And how did that work out? Here’s the transcript:
Terry: Ok, Andy, you just hold the gun like this and –
Me: (Awkwardly jamming the rifle butt into my shoulder while interrupting him) Oh, I know, Terry. I got this.
Terry: (Confused) Well, I wasn’t sure how much you’d done this, so…
Me: (Interrupting again) Yeah, I’m good. Do this all the time. (I’M LYING TO A MAN WHO TEACHES PEOPLE TO KILL THINGS)
Terry: (Mega confused) So you know about the scope?
Me: (Tucking the scope directly into my right eye socket) Yup. (I’M A LYING LIAR WHO LIES)
Terry: (Seeing where this is going) I think you’re a little too close to the sco–
Me: (Pulls trigger)
Me: (Head snaps back violently)
Me: (Loses all vision in right eye)
Me: (Feels warm wetness flowing down face mingled with PAIN)
Terry: (looks downrange at target) I think you missed.
Me: (Chuckling while casually holding gun on shoulder as if nothing is wrong) Yeah, I think you’re right. (SWEET GOD IN HEAVEN I AM VERY MUCH HURT)
As I turn my face toward Terry and set the Very Angry Rifle down, his expression goes from benign amusement to abject terror. “You’re bleeding bad!” he yells while hustling me back to the house. And he’s right: the rifle’s recoil had punched the scope into my eye socket, carving a 3-centimeter gash above my right eye that’s enthusiastically introducing my blood to the outside world. But because of the quick work of my wife – a former EMT who was watching the whole thing and had prepared for this eventuality because she knows I’m an idiot – my eye didn’t require stitches.
My pride and ego, thankfully, did. I was reminded of the value of expert advice and how it’s best received with my head completely free of my butt. I did shake off the embarrassment to eventually return with Terry and learn to shoot the right way.
That knowledge would’ve helped me not almost blow off a man’s foot with a muzzleloader when I was 8…but that’s a story for another time.